Michael Ericksen: Stand against marijuana sales is a wise one

Customers buy products at the Harvest Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco in April 2016. Associated Press

I am a pediatrician in the Portland, Oregon, area and was visiting family over Thanksgiving when I read The Signal editorial regarding the moratorium on pot.

The concerns raised in the article were spot-on. As your readers may know, Washington, as well as Oregon, have also legalized marijuana. As a medical professional who counsels youth every day, I was stunned and devastated when the voters listened to the arguments supporting this giant mistake.

Since then, my fears have been realized. I am talking to increasing numbers of youth who are experimenting and even using regularly since this has gone mainstream. There is much wider acceptance among athletes, popular kids, even high achievers – often with serious consequences (in my day it was mostly the so-called “stoner” crowd that indulged).

I realize that one big reason for this increase in youth use of marijuana is that many of their parents are also using.

Medical science has shown that the young brain is still developing until the mid- to late-20s. Regular marijuana use interferes with that development, with non-reversible consequences. It is a good way to shave off IQ points.

The consequences in motivation to succeed, ambition, grades, as well as other health problems, have been well-studied and well-documented over the decades.

Wise employers still test for marijuana use and ban it from the workplace. Oh, and let’s not forget that marijuana is still a “gateway drug” for harder substances such as heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine – each with additional long-term consequences.

Both Oregon and Washington (and I presume Colorado but haven’t seen the numbers) witnessed a sharp increase in driving-under-the-influence arrests and deaths on the road within months of legalization. That trend continues.

Law enforcement officials are scrambling to develop field testing to better identify drivers who are marijuana-impaired. This affects the safety of every one of us who venture onto the roadways.

Portland has a legendary problem with homelessness, which is growing. Portland city officials (most of whom were seduced by the tax revenues of pot) are not willing to come out and say that marijuana has been a factor, but my belief is that it is.

Heroin and other drugs, along with inadequate mental illness resources, are major factors in homelessness. But THC likely started things off for many of the downtrodden in our midst.

I applaud the position of The Signal on this issue, which is very forward-thinking in my view. Good luck in the ongoing battle!

Dr. Michael Ericksen is a resident of Portland, Ore.

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